(Ros Barber’s article appeared on the Huffington Post, 5/26.)
A great deal of fuss has been made this week about a supposed "newly discovered portrait of Shakespeare" found on the title page engraving of sixteenth century botany book. The editor of UK lifestyle magazine Country Life, in which the discovery was announced, declared it "The Literary Discovery of the Century." The story was dutifully picked up by BBC News Online, and such is the clout of the BBC that by yesterday, all major news outlets were excitedly repeating the story, leading it to trend across social media. The botanist who made the discovery quickly morphed into a "historian" and NBC news even multiplied him into "historians" to add a little weight to the theory.
But the portrait is not a portrait of Shakespeare. There were one or two knowledgable people explaining in the comments sections of various news items yesterday who it was and why, but since their explanations seem to have been drowned out by a slew of "hipster facial hair" comments and breathless speculation, I thought I'd set them down here, in the hope that the madness might be stopped.